In British English, it seems that "because" can always be replaced with "as." Here is an example of "as" meaning "because" in British English:

I popped down to the shops as we were out of loo roll.

In American English, this would translate to:

I went to the store because we were out of toilet paper.

Here is an example of "as" meaning "while" in American English:

I farted loudly as I descended the stairs.

In British English, the preceding sentence would be ambiguous because "as" could mean "while" (the fart coincides with the descent) or "because" (the fart is a result of the descent).

Has this always been true? If "as" has two main meanings ("while" and "because"), which of these was the original? And when was the second meaning added?

  • Can you give some examples?? – Hot Licks Apr 18 '16 at 0:37
  • @HotLicks, I have added examples. – ArgentoSapiens Apr 18 '16 at 4:31
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    "As" means 1. "because", e.g. We got wet in the rain as we were without an umbrella; 2. "function" We would have got wet if Tom hadn't used his jacket as an umbrella; 3. "job" e.g. Tom worked as a lifeguard, and 4. "when" e.g. It started to rain as we walked down to the seashore. I believe there is no distinction between BrEng and AmEng. – Mari-Lou A Apr 20 '16 at 6:54
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    I don't know who has voted to close the question - but (as least as currently edited) it is a perfectly reasonable question for British English (which is what it's tagged as). – TrevorD Apr 21 '16 at 0:25
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    The OED says that both senses date from Old English, although it adds that the meaning because was uncommon in the 16th and first half of the 17th century. From 1385 (spelling modernized): as thou art full of joy and I am full of care, thou help me out of sin. 1440 (spelling modernized) as he slept, another came to home-ward. As to which was the original, there are three or four other meanings of as which might qualify as well. – Peter Shor Apr 21 '16 at 1:06

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